Parents whose children attend Fort Worth’s World Languages Institute worry about lack of space at the campus — students were eating in the library or hallways last school year because the cafeteria is too small — but oppose a plan to split the school.
Overcrowding affects several thousand students districtwide, and the ultimate answer may be a bond election to be considered this summer. A recent budget presentation gave Aug. 15 as a potential day to discuss a bond election for November. Details are yet to be worked out.
The last bond program in Fort Worth schools was $489.9 million approved by voters in November 2013. The three propositions included projects such as new classrooms for a universal pre-kindergarten, security/technology upgrades, two new elementary schools and Visual & Performing Arts/Science, Technology, Engineering & Math academies.
Juan Turcios is one of dozens of institute parents who spoke at a recent school board meeting against the current proposal: splitting the institute and sending some students to a school created within Western Hills High School.
World Languages Institute, 1066 W. Magnolia Ave., is in a renovated 1970 building on 1.3 acres in a restaurant-business district. The campus is a secondary school for students from Spanish-immersion and dual-language enrichment programs. It also draws students interested in international studies.
Parent Lea Rodriguez said students are succeeding in the program and district solutions should be focused on one building. Many students are taking advanced placement classes, she said.
“We know our students are doing their work,” Rodriguez said. “We know they are getting good grades.”
Turcios said institute parents are concerned that the high school level students would be permanently folded into Western Hills and lose their sense of community. They are also worried that siblings will no longer be attending school together, he said.
“You lose your identity whenever you split people like that,” Turcios said.
The long-term vision for the institute was to grow the campus by adding grades — eventually it would accommodate students in grades six through 12. The school year ended with grades six through 10 and no room to grow.
Although the school’s capacity is 330 students and enrollment was 295, there is little room to expand. The school is supposed to add a new group of sixth-grade students each year. The new group is added as the first class moves up.
This year’s 9th-grade students become the first group of 10th-graders next fall.
86,869 total number of students in Fort Worth schools during the 2015-2016 school year.
Parents said the school ran out of space as grades were added and more people learned of the program.
Tanglewood and Davis
At Tanglewood, neighborhood growth is causing overcrowding. The school was built in 1960 and has a capacity of 594, but served 870 this past school year. There are seven portable buildings on the campus. Parents complained about a long lunch line and limited student opportunity for library visits.
Apartment growth is driving the overcrowding at Davis Elementary. The school had 859 students last school year, but capacity is only 535, according to the district.
83 the number of elementary schools in the Fort Worth school district.
Ways to create more learning space have been discussed at several community meetings and town halls. There has not been a presentation for the Clifford Davis community.
Superintendent Kent Scribner is expected to propose more concrete plans addressing growth to the school board later this month. Trustee Ashley Paz, who represents the World Languages Institute, said board members expect a comprehensive plan.
Preliminary plans for the institute called for transitioning grades nine through 12 to Western Hills High School, while grades six through eight stay at the Magnolia site.
Paz said she supports building a six-through-12 campus for the institute on the Western Hills High School property. She said the district can put more money into a state-of-the-art building if it doesn’t have to shop for land.
She also said the parents’ opinions are valuable. “I think the community feedback we have received has been loud and clear,” Paz said.
In the short term, the school would still have to be split while a new facility is built, she said.
“We need time to build something and we need money to build something,” Paz said, explaining that some students would temporarily stay at the Magnolia site, while the high school students attend Western Hills.
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.